Counties Converse on Land Conservation at MET Conference

County elected officials and professional staff turned out to discussed the importance of land conservation at an annual conference hosted by the Maryland Environmental Trust. The Maryland Land Conservation Conference & Symposium focused on land preservation from agricultural, environmental, historical, and recreational perspectives. The second day of the Conference focused entirely on the role of counties in land preservation efforts.

The Conference was held on May 16 and 17 at the Maritime Conference Center in Linthincum Heights, Maryland. MACo served on the advisory committee that helped developed the panels and curricula for the county government day.

The first panel consisted of local elected officials, including Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, Baltimore County Executive John Olszewki, Jr., Calvert County Commissioner Earl “Buddy” Hance, Frederick County Council Member Kai Hagen, Salisbury Mayor Jake Day, and Wicomico County Council Member Josh Hastings.

From L to R: Johnny Olszewki, Kai Hagen, Josh Hastings, Jake Day, Steuart Pittman, Earl “Buddy” Hance, and Ken Ulman

Olszewki stressed the importance of partnering together state, nonprofit and private preservation programs. “We need partners like you to help us,” Olszewki noted. Hagen noted the importance of proper messaging and branding – including tying a proposed conservation project into the broader vision of the local community.

Hastings discussed the importance of recognizing what appeals to the millennial generation, including unique experiences and stories. Pittman stated that when challenges occur to land preservation projects, you should “follow the money.” Pittman also warned that counties and land preservation programs needed to be transparent in their processes and goals.

Hance advised that when encountering opposition, a county or land preservation program should not get discouraged but instead should stay engaged. Day presented a municipal perspective, noting that towns need open space and should work with their counties and other programs to achieve preservation goals both inside and outside of municipal boundaries.

Margrave Strategies CEO and former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman moderated the elected officials panel.

From L to R: Anne Bradley, Barbara Polito, Jeanine Nutter, Wally Lippincott, John Byrd, Sue Simmons, Mark Belton, and Bill Amoss

The second panel consisted of county professional staff, including: (1) Barbara Polito, Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks; (2) Wally Lippincott, Baltimore County Department of Planning; (3) Sue Simmons, Caroline County Recreation and Parks; (4) Mark Belton, Charles County Government; (5) Anne Bradley, Frederick County Land Preservation Program; (6) Bill Amoss, Harford County Planning and Zoning; (7) John Byrd, Howard County Recreation and Parks; and (8) Jeanine Nutter, Prince George’s County Soil Conservation District.

The panelists offered their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities facing land conservation programs today. The panel also had an extensive question/discussion session with the audience.

Partners for Open Space Director Ann Jones moderated the panel.

In addition to the two panels, Maco Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp offered the welcoming remarks, Jones provided a short primer on Maryland’s various conservation programs, and Sassafras Environmental Education Center Director and former United States Representative Wayne Gilchrest spoke over lunch.